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Debunking the recent Time article

August 20, 2009
I just wrote a blog about the recent Time article about my thoughts on exercise and weight loss.  My point of view is simple—exercise is good for you, but not in excess!
Now, here is an article that I found on the American Council on Exercise website that debunks the Time article.
What it comes down to is that there will always be controversy on what we should be doing for better health.  I don’t think anyone truly knows the answer!  All we can do is try to do what suits us best! Remember—moderation is KEY!
Here is the story…
By Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., F.A.C.S.M., Chief Science Officer, American Council on Exercise

Diet and ExerciseThe cover story of the August 9, 2009, issue of Time magazine featured an article entitled, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin.” In this piece, author John Cloud made several inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims regarding the value of exercise, particularly as it relates to weight loss.

What follows is a summary of some of the most misleading assertions made in this highly publicized article, as well as the American Council on Exercise’s response to these assertions:

  • First and foremost…the article categorically implies that exercise has no meaningful role in weight loss. Such a conclusion is as false as it is reckless. The author’s “evidence” is the fact that he has “gut fat that hangs over his belt when he sits,” despite maintaining a regular exercise habit. In all likelihood, his unwanted abdominal girth is probably a by-product of genetics and/or consuming more calories than he expends.
  • Weight loss and maintenance are a matter of simple accounting that is dependent upon energy balance. In order for weight loss to occur, individuals must burn more calories than they consume. Regrettably, many individuals who regularly exercise are unable to meet their weight-loss goals because they eat too much. In reality, however, their “personal weight situation” and overall health profile would be far worse were it not for the extra calories they expend while exercising.
  • An overwhelming body of scientific evidence exists that confirms the positive role that exercise plays in weight loss and maintenance (Hill and Wyatt, 2005; Jakicic and Gallagher, 2003; Jakicic et al., 2001). These findings refute the notion (advanced by the author) that exercise impairs weight-loss efforts by substantially and uncontrollably increasing appetite. Recent research suggests that appetite may be suppressed for 60-90 minutes following vigorous exercise by affecting the release of certain appetite hormones. It also appears that aerobic exercise is more effective at suppressing appetite than non-aerobic forms of exercise (Broom et al., 2009). In general, individuals who participate in moderate exercise tend to eat approximately the same number of calories (or only slightly more) than they would if they did not exercise. Elite-level athletes typically consume high volumes of food after their exercise workouts, but they almost always expend more calories than they consumed (Blundell and King, 1999). It is important to keep in mind, however, that appetite is influenced several factors and is a very complex process making it difficult to generalize the impact of exercise on appetite. The bottom-line is that exercise and diet go hand-in-hand with successful weight management.
  • Surprisingly (and disappointingly) the author failed to mention the tremendously important role that exercise plays in the maintenance of weight loss. According to data from the renowned National Weight Control Registry, consistent exercise participation is the single best predictor of long-term weight maintenance. In others words, if individuals want to be successful in getting off the weight-loss rollercoaster (i.e., repeatedly losing weight and regaining it), they need to regularly engage in physical activity.
  • Another particularly bothersome portion of the article was the misleading comments regarding children and physical activity. A preponderance of evidence shows that kids are often less active after school, not more active as the article implies. As such, community-based youth fitness programs and high-quality school physical education programs are much needed. The available statistics support the fact that well-designed fitness programs aimed at encouraging children to be more active and maintain a healthy body weight remain a significant priority (HHS, 2008).

Needless to say, readers of this article in Time are likely to conclude that exercise is of little to no benefit to them, which makes its publication in such a high profile and respected magazine so disappointing—and possibly even dangerous. Given the enormous economic costs associated with obesity (approximately $147 billion annually), we should be promoting and advocating scientifically proven healthful behaviors like regular exercise participation whenever and wherever we can. Beyond its weight-control benefits, regular exercise provides a plethora of health benefits, including the treatment and prevention of a wide variety of chronic illnesses (heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, certain types of cancer, to name a few), an enhancement of psychological health and well-being, and an improvement in the overall quality of life throughout the human lifespan.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. leticia permalink
    November 4, 2009 5:18 am

    I find it very hard to believe that someone would make such a statement on exercise and the lack of benefits it has on our health. Wow! I can’t even believe
    it got published. Well, this just tells me that as fitness consultants and advocates
    of health and regular exercise, it’s a priority to educate & and teach our clients the importance of not just eating healthy but also exercising/move the body!

    Also, exercise doesn’t always have to come in the form of going to a gym per say but yes, I agree with you Jeannette, a combination of both will promote body fat loss. There are a slew of activities a person can participate and that’s the fun of it,yes?

    OH! We can go on and on but that’s what I have to say on that, for now. Thank you.

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